HAMMOND – The Southeastern Louisiana football team suffered its first setback in Southland Conference play Saturday at McNeese State, but it was difficult to tell based on the upbeat tone of SLU coach Frank Scelfo’s media luncheon Monday at Strawberry Stadium.
"I really love our football team,” Scelfo said. “I liked the resiliency. We don’t do everything right, and we didn’t do everything right on Saturday, but I loved the way competed for 60 minutes. I stood up here last year and I said if we play 60 minutes, then our opponent plays 60 minutes, I can’t tell you how the game’s going to end up. But if they take break, we know how the game’s going to end up, and that’s kind of what happened the two previous weeks. McNeese played 60 minutes. You’ve got to give them credit.
“I can’t wait to get out to practice (Monday). I think energy level is still high.”
The No. 23/25 Lions led 34-31 with 7:06 to play on a 2-yard pass on fourth down from Cole Kelley to Brensen Schwebel -- the second time the Lions took the lead in the second half after trailing by 21 points in the first half until McNeese used a 93-yard scoring drive to take the lead then stopped Southeastern on downs to seal the win.
“We could have folded at any point in time and we didn’t,” Scelfo said. “We didn’t fold at all during the course of the game. We made mistakes. We did some things that I felt like were uncharacteristic … but we didn’t quit playing hard, and as long as we do that, we’ll always have a chance.”
Scelfo pointed to the Lions’ inability to run the ball and hit big plays as a pair of areas that hurt SLU's chances against McNeese. He praised the Cowboys’ front four, which helped limit the Lions to 96 yards on 27 carries.
“I was disappointed in the lack of physicality by our offensive line coming off the football,” Scelfo said. “We stayed more lateral. We reverted back to some old habits. We had four false starts by the offensive line, too. One of them was critical on first-and-goal at the 2-yard line. That’s a tough pill to swallow there.”
Conversely, McNeese rushed for 225 yards on 57 carries, while quarterback Cody Orgeron hit Cyron Sutton on a 58-yard TD pass and Trevor Begue on a 33-yard TD pass for the game-winner with 2:21 to play. Scelfo said the big scores came as a result of coverage breakdowns and McNeese also got 10 points off two Lion turnovers.
“They didn’t get a lot of yards per carry, but they got a lot of yards, and they got some efficient yards, so because of that, they were able to control the football and the clock.”
Scelfo is hopeful his team can remedy those issues heading into Saturday’s homecoming game with Incarnate Word, set for a 4 p.m. kickoff at Strawberry Stadium. The game will be televised on ESPN+ and will also air on the Southeastern Sports Radio Network (KSLU-FM (90.9), Kajun 107.1 FM, The Highway 104.7 FM and The Boss 103.7 FM/1400 AM WFPR), online at www.LionSports.net/listenlive and via the Radio FX and TuneIn Radio apps.
“Us (being) able to fight back tells you we’ve got some things going right,” Scelfo said. “It’s easy to point out, when you have so many things going right, the mistakes are just often glaring. The two turnovers are glaring. The false starts are glaring, so let’s fix those. We control that.
“The message is continue to do what we do, just do it better.”
Holliday misses the trip
Former Live Oak kicker Nathan Holliday missed the trip to Lake Charles after rolling his ankle in practice last Thursday, allowing Bryce Broussard to take over on kickoffs while also going 4-for-4 and extra points and two field goals of 20 and 21 yards.
“We’ll see what happens this week,” Scelfo said in regard to Hollday’s status.
Austin Dunlap averaged 47.5 yards on six punts, with two downed inside the 20-yard line.
“I thought he did a fantastic job flipping the field for us a few times and gave them some difficult situations from a field position standpoint,” Scelfo said.
It was a mistake
Scelfo said officials admitted a mistake was made on McNeese State’s first PAT attempt of the game, when Tre Spann picked up a loose ball and returned it for what appeared to be a 2-point conversion.
An inadvertent whistle, however, wiped out the play, and McNeese State’s Bailey Rayborn re-kicked the PAT for a 7-0 lead.
“After the kick, which basically became I guess a blocked kick if you want to term it that, and us clearly recovering the ball, the referee blew the whistle,” Scelfo said. “So it becomes an inadvertent whistle, which kills the play. Then you go back to the rule on inadvertent whistles, the offense then has the opportunity to re-play the down. The re-play of the down, which allowed them to kick it again was correct … The mistake came (on) the inadvertent whistle. He shouldn’t have blown the whistle. He should have let the play play itself out and the score should have been 6-2 after that.”
Becoming a bigger factor
Schwebel finished with eight catches for 94 yards and a touchdown against the Cowboys, and Scelfo said part of the comes from the 6-foot-5, 245-pound senior tight end gaining a better understanding of routes and using his size for leverage.
“We have things specifically in for him,” Scelfo said. “If the coverage doesn’t roll over to him, we’re going to him. One-on-one coverage for him, he’s still open. The corner’s going to still cover him because he can’t out-run him, but he’s just so big, he can out-match him. He’s open just by his presence alone, so you’ve got to double-cover the guy, but if you do that, you’re going to leave somebody else in single coverage. I think he’s a good weapon for us, and we’re going to continue to use him.”